The other day at lunchtime my colleague R and I announced to our high-pitched and highly amusing senior colleague L that we were going out to get sandwiches. As is her wont, she asked us to pick up one for her. I said no problem, I'd text her a pic of the menu.
No no no, she said, just get me jambon à l'os, with cantal...
At which point I was obliged to explain we were not going to any old interchangeable French sandwich place. R and I were going to Restaurant Verjus*, whose newly launched lunchtime sandwich program is essentially a Great American Road Trip of sandwich nostalgia. There's a slim menu of sandwiches, each named after its culinary inspiration: a pork belly homage to Momofuku's David Chang, fried chicken ode to Bakesale Betty in Oakland... It's like owners Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian wanted to adapt the Proustian madeleine to the American palate, and give their numerous expat fans something to make their hearts melt and their mouths water.
It works: I've went back three times last week, drawn by the fine weather, Laura's hospitality, and the aforementioned Bakesale Betty sandwich, which in my case sidesteps the madeleine test by being vastly superior to any fried chicken sandwich I can remember consuming in my lifetime. It's just the fried chicken Perkins serves at the wine bar in the evenings, only in a lovely pliant bun with some slaw. But the chicken itself - the crispy, sculptural, yet moisture-rich quality of fry - is rave-worthy.
That I should find myself dwelling on the fried chicken of a chef as talented and as multi-faceted as Perkins - as if he were no more than an haute-gastro Colonel Sanders - is kind of a cosmic joke. But there it is: the fried chicken is that good.
So good, in fact, that Verjus' fledgling sandwich menu becomes a little imbalanced. The other options, while tasty, could use tweaking. The pork belly sandwich comes on a small rice bun slightly too close in texture to the pork belly itself, which meat, when I attempted to consume it, slithered out and landed on my lap, testifying to poor construction.
The comparatively mild pulled-pork sandwich comes pressed into a half-baguette. Here the problem is not one of construction, but rather one of presentation. Half-baguettes look stingy. It's like you're sharing your sandwich with an invisible man who has taken the bigger half. Verjus' sandwiches presently arrive without fries or Kettle Chips or what-have-you, and can look a bit lonely on the plate to begin with. So at 10€ takeaway, or 15€ dine-in with a supplement of baked dessert and a soda, they're a wee bit pricey, owing, probably, to the fact that they're composed of the same Cadillac ingredients Verjus employs for dinner service.
|A perfectly wispy succulent snickerdoodle cookie.|
Whatever the reason, my colleague L crowed about the price tag all afternoon. Lunch service is a different animal, with different dining priorities. Most people want sides and a sense of abundance, and they want it for next to nothing.
For my part, I have found myself willing - even eager! - to eat small expensive sandwiches for the sake of a civilised environment, friendly staff, and the presence of good wine by the glass.
The other day I was delighted to see that Laura Adrian has added to Verjus' list what must rank as 11ème caviste and wine agent Vincent Lequin's discovery of 2013: the lazer-precise Corbières wines of a very new biodynamic estate called Domaine de la Promesse de la Terre in Lagrasse.
Co-founded* by an agronomist and winemaking consultant called Bruno Weiller in 2011, the mixed agriculture estate possesses 7ha of vines, and produces, among other cuvées, an astonishingly balanced Corbières blanc, whose snowy herbal flavors and precision minerality had me guessing Savoie when Lequin blinded me on it a few weeks back.
I've also tried the estate's three red cuvées, the best of which is, perhaps surprisingly, the cheapest : a rainfall-fresh, crisply mineral Carignan-Syrah-Grenache blend called "Renaissance," as toothsome and balanced as a fine square meal.
* I see from the website that renowned soil expert Claude Bourguignon is also involved somehow.
52 rue de Richlieu
Tel: 01 42 97 54 40
Aux Anges - Vincent Lequin's 11ème cave
Alexander Lobrano on Restaurant Verjus' dinner service @ HungryForParis